Timor. After 400 years of Portuguese rule, a quarter of a century under Indonesian occupation and two years of UN administration, East Timor became independent on May 20.
According to Countryaah website, national day of East Timor is every May 20. Freedom hero Xanana Gusmão became president after being elected with more than 82% of the vote in April. Before independence, Parliament adopted a democratic constitution which established a parliamentary system with an almost symbolic office. The poor state was promised $ 440 million in aid over the next three years.
In July, East Timor became a member of the World Bank and on September 27, the country was admitted as a member number 191 in the UN. The first 650 members of a new army began to take over tasks from the UN force, which is expected to be phased out by mid-2004.
A Truth and Reconciliation Commission was appointed at the beginning of the year to investigate crimes committed during the occupation. A human rights tribunal will investigate those responsible for the violence in connection with the 1999 referendum on independence. However, all wanted persons are in Indonesia and it is uncertain if they will ever be extradited.
The then Governor Abilio Soares was sentenced in Indonesia to three years in prison and the Militia leader Eurico Guterres to ten years. Both penalties were considered to be far too mild. At least 1,000 people were killed and the material devastation became enormous during the ravages of the pro-Indonesian militias in 1999.
In November, Archbishop Carlos Belo resigned for health reasons. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 together with Jos谷 Ramos-Horta, the new state’s first foreign minister.
In December, a student demonstration in the capital Dili led to violent crowds. Stores and hotels were looted and the Prime Minister’s residence burned down. A state of emergency was announced.
Occupied by the Portuguese at the beginning of the century. 16th, Timor was invaded in 1613 by the Dutch who took possession (1618) of the western part of the island; the treaty of 1859 and the subsequent one of 1904 stipulated between the two powers established the borders between the respective areas. During the Second World War the entire territory of Timor was occupied by the Japanese and in 1949, with the Dutch withdrawal, the western part became part of Indonesia. In the eastern part, which remained under the rule of Lisbon, after the outbreak of the revolution in Portugal (1974) a civil war developed between the FRETILIN (Frente revolucionária do Timor Leste independent), left nationalist, and the factions supporting a rapprochement with Indonesia. The withdrawal of the Portuguese – under whose administration the United Nations continued to consider TE – and the prevalence of FRETILIN led, in November 1975, to the proclamation of the Democratic Republic of East Timor. Inserted in a regional context strongly influenced by the Cold War, the young republic could not survive: in December Indonesian troops invaded the region giving rise to a harsh armed repression and in August 1976 TE was officially incorporated as the 27th province of Indonesia (see Indonesia and Portugal, App. IV). The annexation, however, was neither recognized by Portugal nor by the United Nations, whose Security Council had voted in April a resolution that enshrined the right of the Timorese to self-determination. In the following years, TE’s political situation remained extremely tense.
Despite the repeated condemnations of the UN and international organizations for the defense of human rights, in fact, the civilian population and FRETILIN continued to be the subject of harsh reprisals by the government of Djakarta that accompanied the acts of brutal repression (according to estimates international humanitarian organizations, from the invasion at the end of the nineties about 200. 000 Timorese, representing a third of the population, have lost their lives) in a massive immigration program to ‘dilute’ the local community, mainly Christian, and create an elite indigenous Muslim and pro-Indonesian with whom to maintain privileged relationships. The repeated episodes of violence culminated in the massacre perpetrated by the Indonesian army in November 1991 in Dili: the armed forces opened fire on a crowd of civilians who attended the funeral of a young supporter of the independence movement killed by the police, causing more than a hundred dead (see also Indonesia, App. V). The images of the massacre, disseminated by the opposition forces abroad, brought the situation of TE back to international attention and in the following years the United Nations renewed attempts to initiate a dialogue between the parties. In Oct 1996Amid the lively protests of the Indonesian government, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the bishop of Timor, CF Ximenes Belo, and to the spokesman of FRETILIN, J. Ramos Horta. Further emphasis on the Timorese cause was given by N. Mandela’s visit, in July 1997, to the leader of FRETILIN, JA Xanana Gusmâo, in prison since 1992.